Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trying Wonder Woman Again

Wonder Woman is a hard character to enjoy. Swinging back and forth between feminism, mythology, and regular comic book action - her character has been all over the map. Yet she still remains an iconic character in American culture, still on par with the likes of Superman and Batman. Her stories have progressed and become much better and more sophisticated with age - largely due to the refocus on the mythological aspects of the character. George Perez, when updating the Wonder Woman in the late 80s, reinvigorated the character by making Wonder Woman not just a super hero, but a modern-day Greek Myth. Fast forward 20 years later, and a brand new reboot of Wonder Woman is taking a similar approach, to much fan fare... but also controversy.

I largely ignored the title, even though the likes of 100 Bullet's Brian Azzarello was writing the title. I was somewhat burned by J Michael Straczynski's failed reinterpretation of Wonder Woman, and given the violent stories Azzarello can write, I wasn't eager to jump into an overly violent title either. Also, this is beyond silly - but I was disappointed with the decision not to give Wonder Woman pants (seriously - this was a HUGE debate!) DC eventually favored the more classic, tights costume - which actually turned out to be the right move; the character is portrayed as being very naive to the modern world - and the super-hero look helps reinforce that picture. Plus, when dealing with what she knows - her world of Greek Mythology - the original look works excellently as an adventuring style.

I actually tried one issue of the new Wonder Woman, upon hearing about the revelation about the Amazons. Reinterpreted more closely to the war-like culture from the Greek Myths, it was revealed that Male Amazon children where given up in favor of female children. The children where traded into slavery, to Hephaestus, in exchange for weapons. Wonder Woman, having been sheltered from the truth all her life, was ignorant of this revelation. This sent shockwaves throughout the comic book community, as it seemingly damaged the mythology of Wonder Woman (and so soon after being rebooted!). I was thrown by it as well - until I realized the commentary that was being portrayed - about the Chinese's abortion of female children, in favor of the male children. I've come to consider a change to Wonder Woman's mythology to be a fair trade, as it highlights a horrible real-life practice; one of the reasons it seemed more shocking in the comic, I feel, was because the genders where swapped.

Anyway - in comparison to that revelation, the announcement concerning Wonder Woman's parentage seemed insignificant - but has opened up a wealth of ideas. WW's original origin had her being made of clay, and given life to give Queen Hippolyta a child. That was the lie told to Wonder Woman all her life -- now it was revealed that Wonder Woman is the illegitimate daughter of Zeus. (Zeus is quite the adulterer - as the actual Greek Myths will attest)

Wonder Woman's mission, during the first 12 issues of the new series, has revolved around the impending birth of a new child of Zeus, who Wonder Woman has to protect. Apparently there's a prophecy concerning the child - that a child of Zeus would one day kill a god to take the throne of Olympus. The main villain of the series, Apollo, has his eyes set on Zeus' throne. In issue #12, Apollo seizes the throne - remaking Mount Olympus in his image.

After Apollo has taken the throne - Wonder Woman is faced with a fight against Artemis. In a stellar scene, Wonder Woman takes off her cuffs - which smash into the ground like 100-pound weights. Being arrogant, Artemis mocks Wonder Woman for giving up her best defense when facing a god. Wonder Woman corrects her - the cuffs aren't for her protection, their for Artemis' protection; a surge of glowing power unleashes in Wonder Woman's entire being - the true power of her linage to Zeus on display. Wonder Woman handily beat Artemis, and was able to achieve a truce with Apollo, for him to no longer seek out and kill the child.

All the Greek gods that populate the Wonder Woman comic are all reinterpreted in modern ways. They all have agendas, and can be confusing where everyone stands; which is befitting the family of the Greek Pantheon. Eris, who goes by the name Strife, for example, is depicted somewhat like a car-wreck celebrity debutant - which is fitting for the goddess of Chaos.

Hermes, messenger of the gods, is a key ally to Wonder Woman, helping to protect the mortal mother, Zola, and her unborn child. In a shocking twist - another aspect of Hermes is revealed, as he escapes with the child right after its born. Hera mockingly says asks what would you expect, from the god of thieves? (Hermes represents a lot of things). So now finding the child will be first on Wonder Woman's list.

It should be noted, from all that I've seen, Cliff Chiang is a fantastic artist - and has perfectly been capturing the look and style of modern-day Greek gods. The action and beauty of his pencils belies the complexity of the story being told. I hope he continues to work on the title - as he helps elevate it from mere comics, to high art.

Issue #0, taking a look into Wonder Woman's past, reveals a cool new reinterpretation of the god of War, Ares. Once always portrayed as one of Wonder Woman's most fearsome enemies - in this version Ares is the estranged mentor of Diana.

Issue #13 has already come out - and will soon lead to the next big revelation of this new Wonder Woman series: Jack Kirby's The New Gods are being introduced - quite appropriately setting them right alongside the Greek Pantheon. They might not be legitimate mythological figures from history - but given their importance in the DCU (Darkseid already having appeared in the pages of Justice League) - it seemed quite right to see the New Gods taken as seriously as the Greek Pantheon has been.

Wonder Woman is first going to be facing Orion - the savage warrior of New Genesis, and bastard son of Darkseid. I can't wait to read it! In the meantime I'm getting the first Hardcover released by DC, featuring the first 6 issues of the new Wonder Woman series. The subtitle of the HC is "Blood" - with January releasing volume 2 being titled "Guts".

If not clear beforehand, this title is mature - dealing with violence, controversial subjects, and - really - all the mess that is the Greek's Mythology -- all with Wonder Woman acting as the arbiter of peace between all warring sides. (It should be noted, though, to achieve said peace - Wonder Woman will use violence. Serious violence.) The series looks like its raw, uncompromising, and mythic. It just looks like a fabulous series - which I wish I had jumped onboard for right away. Luckily, with the releasing Hardcovers and TPBs, new fans can quickly catch up.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose the male infanticide in the story is a commentary on the real problem of female infanticide, though it might have been a more effective one without the gender swap. And the real issue of sexual crimes in wartime, always perpetuated by men against women, was also commented on in an effective and trenchant manner by having the Amazons castrate all of the men in the land they conquered. I wonder how many other issues of violence by one group against another, always one way, might be dealt with by swapping the roles of the perpetrator and the victim. Certainly the victimized groups should have no cause for complaint. After all, confusing the victim with the victimized is an effective means of raising awareness.